Film

Short Cuts - Guilty Pleasures: Problem Child (1990)

What is it about this deliriously dopey 1990 comedy that makes it so endearing? Is it the saccharine statements about child rearing, the touchy feely subtext which suggests that biology and procreation cures all marital ills? Is it the simple story of a misunderstood orphan who finds love and compassion with a kindhearted couple? Perhaps it's the third act switcheroo that tosses aside the difficult youngster at the center of the story for a bizarre turn by Seinfeld's Michael Richards as the world's silliest serial killer? Maybe it’s the sloppy, stupid slapstick or adolescent level gags. Whatever the case, the reason Problem Child truly holds such a staggeringly sweet spot in all our culpable cinematic consciousness is because of its star, the unbelievably obtuse child actor, Michael Oliver. Never before in the history of underage thespianism has one kid crammed so much staggering badness into a single perplexing performance. From his razor wire voice that's a combination of ventriloquist dummy and flu-ravaged coloratura, to his cardboard as character trait stiffness, and you've got the perfect remedy for the precocious, stage mothered bratling that's typically featured in such hackneyed family fare.

Oliver's illogical iconography, honed from haphazard hardwood that's just as flexible, was a perfect contrast to the late John Ritter's warm geniality, Amy Yazbeck's harpy haughtiness, and Jack Warden's walking fart joke. Together, they melded into the kind of crack comic company that could take a page of dialogue and actually infuse it with energy and excitement. Otherwise, this was a sitcom without the shrewdness, which is all the more odd when you consider that it was scripted by Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski, the pair who wrote the wonderful Ed Wood, The People vs. Larry Flynt and Man on the Moon (granted, they also penned the pathetic Agent Cody Banks and the unnecessary That Darn Cat remake). Even actor turned director Dennis Dugan can't fully be blamed for the baffling incongruities here, as he went on to helm the amazing Marx Brothers/Three Stooges redux, Brain Donors. No, it's all Oliver, his penguin in a pottiness shining above and beyond all the other rancid elements in this hair brained humoresque. While the inevitable sequel went for the gross-out, stay with the original Problem paradigm. It offers the most addled thrills for your comedy cache.

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

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Electronic music is one of the broadest-reaching genres by design, and 2017 highlights that as well as any other year on record. These are the 20 best albums.


20. Vitalic - Voyager (Citizen)

Pascal Arbez-Nicolas (a.k.a. Vitalic) made waves in the French Touch electro-house scene with his 2005 debut, OK Cowboy, which had a hard-hitting maximalist sound, but several albums later, Voyager finds him launching into realms beyond at his own speed. The quirky, wallflower vocals and guitar snippets employed throughout Voyager drop a funk that brings to mind WhoMadeWho or Matthew Dear if they had disco-pop injected between their toes. "Levitation" is as pure a slice of dance floor motivation as theoretically possible, a sci-fi gunfight with a cracking house beat sure to please his oldest fans, yet the album-as-form is equally effective in its more contemplative moments, like when Miss Kitten's vocals bring an ethereal dispassion to "Hans Is Driving" to balance out its somber vocoder or the heartfelt cover of "Don't Leave Me Now" by Supertramp. Voyager may infect you with a futuristic form of Saturday Night Fever, but afterwards, it gives you a hearty dose of aural acetaminophen to break it. - Alan Ranta


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Film

Hitchcock, 'Psycho', and '78/52: Hitchcock's Shower Scene'

Alfred Hitchock and Janet Leigh on the set of Psycho (courtesy of Dogwoof)

"... [Psycho] broke every taboo you could possibly think of, it reinvented the language of film and revolutionised what you could do with a story on a very precise level. It also fundamentally and profoundly changed the ritual of movie going," says 78/52 director, Alexandre O. Philippe.

The title of Alexandre O. Philippe's 78/52: Hitchcock's Shower Scene (2017) denotes the 78 set-ups and the 52 cuts across a full week of shooting for Psycho's (1960) famous shower scene. Known for The People vs. George Lucas (2010), The Life and Times of Paul the Psychic Octopus (2012) and Doc of the Dead (2014), Philippe's exploration of a singular moment is a conversational one, featuring interviews with Walter Murch, Peter Bogdanovich, Guillermo del Toro, Jamie Lee Curtis, Osgood Perkins, Danny Elfman, Eli Roth, Elijah Wood, Bret Easton Ellis, Karyn Kusama, Neil Marshall, Richard Stanley and Marli Renfro, body double for Janet Leigh.

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The Force, which details the Oakland Police Department's recent reform efforts, is best viewed as a complimentary work to prior Black Lives Matter documentaries, such 2017's Whose Streets? and The Blood Is at the Doorstep.

Peter Nicks' documentary The Force examines the Oakland Police Department's recent reform efforts to curb its history of excessive police force and systemic civil rights violations, which have warranted federal government oversight of the Department since 2003. Although it has its imperfections, The Force stands out for its uniquely equitable treatment of law enforcement as a complex organism necessitating difficult incremental changes.

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6

Mary Poppins, Mrs. Gamp, Egyptian deities, a Japanese umbrella spirit, and a supporting cast of hundreds of brollies fill Marion Rankine's lively history.

"What can go up a chimney down but can't go down a chimney up?" Marion Rankine begins her wide-ranging survey of the umbrella and its significance with this riddle. It nicely establishes her theme: just as umbrellas undergo, in the everyday use of them, a transformation, so too looking at this familiar, even forgettable object from multiple perspectives transforms our view of it.

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